The First Few Months
Friends. They can make or break a situation.
A city becomes a thousand times more beautiful if you have good people around you; a job becomes a million times more enjoyable if you get on well with you co-workers. Every hurdle is a little easier to step over if you have a solid support network.
So what do we do when we don’t have any?
The issue of not knowing anyone, except for my partner of course, was one of my biggest fears when I moved across the pond.
The challenge is, therefore, how to meet new people. I look back at school days and university with a little envy. I did not appreciate at the time how easy it was to meet people and make connections. Simply by turning up to a class would introduce you to new social circles.
Now, in Canada, I don’t have such a straightforward answer to meeting people mapped out in front of me. And the issue of not having friends in the same city, let alone the same country, has been one of the biggest things I have battled with since we arrived on foreign ground a few months ago.
These have been my experiences so far:
- It is hard work
I had a rather naive view of meeting people before I arrived here. I had envisaged a somewhat rosy scene where I rocked on into my local café, ordered a latte and started up a conversation with the person on the table next to me. Since arriving here I have found there to be a number of problems with this.
A) Predominantly, I am not that confident.
B) Toronto is a HUGE city, with many people and many many coffee shops. People generally nip into a Tim Hortons, grab a drink and then run. Unless you religiously visit every day you are unlikely to become familiar with caffeine swigging locals.
It is hard because you don’t have that initial friend with you to make introductions.
I also think it is harder being in a big city as it is so easy to feel lost and just blend into a crowd.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. My realisation here was that friends will not necessarily come to me. I need to go out and put in effort to find them.
- Online Groups
Whilst I wouldn’t promote spending all your time meeting people online, there are a few valuable resources that can be really useful for individuals looking to meet new people.
Meetup is probably my favourite of these. This website lists hundreds of groups going on in your city that you can simply sign-up to. From running groups to reading groups, Meetup covers a wide variety of interests. Most groups are free too!
Side story, but my boyfriend and I actually met at a Badminton Meetup group in Bristol – so proof it can work! I personally find the ones where you are doing an activity – like a sport, or hobby, much better than drinks nights out. But hey, that’s just my opinion.
P.s. We are yet to find a good Badminton group in Toronto if anyone has any suggestions!
Other sites to use are:
- Dating Friends
This sounds weird, but so far has worked! It does require some guts, and basically consists of asking people you like the look of out for a coffee – a ‘friend date’.
This works well in conjunction with the above mentioned meetup groups, rather than running up to random people in the street and inviting them to dine with you.
I recently stumbled across a blog targeted at Expat Spouses which matches you with someone similar to you in the same city as you. You exchange email addresses and then go for a real-life blind ‘friend date’.
Anyone interested can find it at:
- Join Clubs and get to Know Your Community
I have to admit, I am yet to be particularly successful at this – but I think that is mainly because I am yet to commit to whole-heartedly to a club and therefore am jeopardising my chances of getting to know others there too well.
Also, my clubs tend to be yoga classes/ exercise classes. Which, other than a quick hello and goodbye and the end of class, tend to be more solitary activities. I am looking into other groups though, so fingers crossed I will be meeting people by these means soon enough!
I will emphasise however, just by nipping into my local community centre and finding out what is going on has helped me to feel way more settled and integrated into the community around me .
- Try to say Yes to Everything (as much as possible)
I really don’t know where I got my energy from for partying at University, but now I am very happy having some nice food, a couple of drinks and being in bed by midnight.
However, if we get invited out anywhere here I really do try and say yes as much as possible. Even if I am feeling tired, a bit run down, or just generally grumpy.
Plus there are some really fun ‘alternative’ nights out in Toronto – so plenty of suggestions for things to do with others. Some of my favourites are the numerous board game café/ bars in Downtown, or if you haven’t gone yet, the jazz night at the aquarium which runs the first Friday of every month.
Unfortunately, friendships are things you cannot rush. Some days I feel really down that I don’t have a bestie here yet. Then I remind myself I can’t expect everything to fall into place over night.
And Don’t Worry (says me, one of the biggest worriers on the planet). Sometimes friends walk into your lives in the most random and unexpected of ways. For instance, one of my loveliest friends in Bristol quite literally climbed into our lives when she got locked out of her house and needed access to our garden wall.
I am very much still a newbie here – and the above reflects my experience of making friends during the first few months in an alien city. Give it three more months, and hopefully I will know more and more people here!